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August 2014 Issue

Cover Story

Made in Colorado 2013

By Eric Peterson

From the Western Slope to the Eastern Plains, Colorado is home to all sorts of businesses that make all sorts of things. Satellites. Banjos. Pharmaceuticals.  Animatronics for haunted houses. Oh, and custom gorilla suits, of course. Colorado famously has more than its fair share of breweries, and distilleries have followed in their wake. Naturally the Rockies inspire ski- and snowboard-makers. Other notable clusters: natural and organic foods, bikes and bike accessories, high-end audio, medical devices and outdoor gear. We’ve got a good number of toy makers and defense

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Articles

Made in Colorado 2013: Technology & industrial

By Eric Peterson

Gamma Two Robotics Denver www.gamma-two.com and www.vigilantrobots.com Robots Drs. Jim and Louise Gunderson are the husband-and-wife, CTO-and-CEO team behind Gamma Two Robotics. They incorporated the company in 2003 but didn’t begin developing a biologically inspired cybernetic brain until 2006. Now that they’ve honed the technology, they’ve plopped that brain into the Vigilus indoor security robot. “It can do tasks that are too dull, dirty and dangerous for humans,” says Louise. “You need some intelligence to do these things – these are not toys.” Robots lease for $2,000 a month with a maintenance contract and sell for about $40,000. Next up: the outdoor security market and. . .

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Made in Colorado 2013: Music & sound

By Eric Peterson

Viktorian Guitars Denver www.viktorian.com Carbon fiber guitars “I met Diego Grinfeld while traveling to Israel in 2008,” says Josh Jacobson. “He was in the aerospace industry using carbon fiber. On his own, he’d come up with an exact replica of a Les Paul guitar made out of carbon fiber.” Jacobson was blown away by it and he subsequently co-founded Viktorian Guitars with Grinfeld in 2010. Jacobson outlines the three main benefits of a carbon fiber guitar: sound quality, durability and weight. “Old guitars weigh a ton,” he says. “It’s like carrying around a tree trunk.” Carbon fiber guitars tend to weigh about half of wood ones. Viktorian Guitars aren’t cheap – the suggested. . .

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Made in Colorado 2013: Electronics

By Eric Peterson

Aleph Objects Loveland www.alephobjects.com www.lulzbot.com Open-source 3D printers Aleph Objects CEO Jeff Moe preaches the gospel of 3D printing. Moe started Aleph in 2011 after selling his previous startup, ISP Verinet Communitcations, to Front Range Internet. He was a proponent of open-source software like Linux and Apache at Verinet, and found himself enamored with open-source hardware – especially 3D printers that print most any imaginable shape out of CAD files and plastic filament. Moe bought his first open-source 3D printer kit and put it together in 2010. Three short years later, Aleph has made hundreds of the first two LulzBot models: the AO-100 and the AO-101. The latter retails for $1,725 fully assembled. Currently in. . .

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Made in Colorado 2013: Winter sports

By Eric Peterson

Never Summer Industries Denver www.neversummer.com Snowboards Brothers and Never Summer co-founders Tim and Tracey Canaday made their first snowboards in wood shop class as high schoolers in Fort Collins in 1983. Thirty years later, they’re cranking 25,000 Never Summer snowboards a year out of their Denver factory when most of their competitors have moved production to China. On top of that, the company also manufactures for a number of other Colorado snowboard and ski brands on a contract basis. Marketing Manager Chris Harris attributes the 150-employee company’s growth to the Canaday brothers’ smart, unselfish business philosophy, along with innovative designs – namely the patented Rocker/Camber (R.C.) technology.. . .

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Made in Colorado 2013: Pet products

By Eric Peterson

KONG Co. Golden www.kongcompany.com Rubber dog toys Maybe you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but Joe Markham, the founder of KONG, learned firsthand that you can teach them new habits. The first KONG, a primitive version of today’s popular toy, was accidentally conceived while Markham and his fuzzy pal Fritz were working on a beat-up Volkswagen. Markham haphazardly tossed aside a piece of suspension and was surprised to find the chewy rubber satiated his canine’s destructive desire to chew. What began as a mom-and-pop shop has evolved into a large-scale operation. KONG employs over 200 people in offices across the globe and boasts 360 products sold in 66 countries. True, things have changed since KONG was introduced in 1976. But two steadfast. . .

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Made in Colorado 2013: Bicycles & accessories

Rolling along

By Eric Peterson

Panda Bicycles Fort Collins www.pandabicycles.com Bamboo bicycles Jacob Castillo, co-founder of Panda Bicycles, says the company was one of the first manufacturers to embrace bamboo for bike frames. Launched in 2009, the company was “one of the first to scale up,” he says. “We’re seeing more competition in the space and more competition for bamboo bikes all over the world. “All of our indicators are moving up and to the right,” says Castillo. “We’ve had a really positive reaction to our new concepts and models.” Panda has shipped custom tandem, cargo and cyclocross bicycles. “Folks should never hesitate to come to us with a custom idea,” says Castillo. Panda works with. . .

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Made in Colorado 2013: Cleantech

By Eric Peterson

RavenBrick Denver http://www.ravenbrick.com Dynamic window replacements “The beauty of our technology is that it has about a four-year return on investment,” touts Chris Ketchum, VP of sales for RavenBrick. Ketchum explains that RavenBrick’s patent-pending technology can manipulate the electron structure of semiconductor materials, altering their properties in real time. What this means is that windows built with RavenBrick’s tools can darken themselves automatically on a hot day, reducing the amount of heat that builds up inside a home or office. The windows can also stay neutral on cold days, allowing sunlight to more easily pass to heat the space. “The energy savings from this are potentially enormous,”. . .

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Made in Colorado 2013: Food & drink

By Eric Peterson

Celestial Seasonings Boulder www.celestialseasonings.com Teas When it comes to Colorado-based brands, Celestial Seasonings is likely one of the most recognizable. Established in 1969, the tea kingpin serves more than 1.6 billion cups annually with more than 100 different products. The Centennial State has proven to be a prime site for the company to grow and flourish. “The natural food movement here has steadily grown over the last 40 years to become one of the driving forces in our state’s economy,” says Jennifer Stolte, senior director of marketing. New to the tea titan is the Natural Shots line, including varieties to boost energy and aid sleep. The latter, dubbed Sleepytime Snooz, is a natural fit for the company,. . .

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Made in Colorado 2013: Clothing, bags & jewelry

Icebox Knitting, Verre Encore and Ecologic Designs

By Eric Peterson

Icebox Knitting Longmont www.dohmhats.com Hats and caps A nostalgic nod to domesticity of days passed, each Dohm “Knit in America” wool hat is locally woven from world-class yarn on an antique, hand-powered knitting machine. Icebox Knitting came about in 1993 when co-founders Josh McGlothlin and Scott Baker were commissioned to make hats for a Boulder store. “We bought a little hand flap machine and knitted 500 hats before realizing there had to be a better way,” Baker recalls. The pair found Alpine Knitting, a 4,000-square-foot factory owned by the late Richard Kruger. For a decade, the men got a sweetheart deal: factory space in exchange for a quarter per hat. The team has since relocated to Longmont where it sells hats and. . .

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Made in Colorado 2013: Beer

By Eric Peterson

New Belgium Brewing Fort Collins www.newbelgium.com Craft beer As usual, there’s plenty of news emanating from the macro-microbrewery that is now the nation’s third largest craft brewer and seventh largest overall. They’re getting ready to break ground on a new $175 million brewery in Asheville, N.C., that could nearly double production capacity and will shift some production to more effectively target the Northeast, since folks haven’t been able to find Fat Tire north of D.C. The beverages will be available in Alaska, Louisiana and Florida in March, April and July, respectively, making for a 30-state market that spans, well, from Alaska to Florida. The company also went from 42 percent employee-owned to 100 percent in. . .

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Made in Colorado 2013: Toys

By Eric Peterson

Trumark Manufacturing Co. Boulder www.slingshots.com Slingshots “We invented the wrist-braced slingshot in 1953,” says Mark Ellenburg, president of Trumark Manufacturing Co. The “we” Ellenburg is referring to is himself, his father Howard and his brother Steve. The trio used a dog collar to make the prototype on the bumper of a Willys Jeep 60 years ago. After two decades in Nebraska, the Ellenburgs moved to Colorado. Ellenburg estimates the company has shipped about 10 million slingshots in its history. When the slingshot industry moved offshore in the last 10 years, Trumark didn’t budge. “Our competition went to China,” says Ellenburg. “It’s come back in our favor because the quality of their. . .

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Made in Colorado 2013: Medical & bioscience

By Eric Peterson

Westone Laboratories Colorado Springs www.westone.com Hearing aid accessories In 1954, Ron and Mickey Morgan launched what is now North America’s largest hearing aid earpiece manufacturer from Divide. Nearly 60 years later, the company has sold millions of custom earpieces. “It’s probably 15 million to 20 million custom earpieces in the last 50-plus years and every one is hand-produced,” says Westone Marketing Director David Slepak. “It’s a real manufacturing facility down here.” Of the company’s 250 employees in Colorado Springs, about 200 work in production. The company isn’t exclusively rooted in the audiology market: Westone has also sold plenty of custom earplugs to the. . .

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Made in Colorado 2013: Spirits & wine

By Eric Peterson

Leopold Brothers Denver www.leopoldbros.com Spirits There is a clear separation of powers at Leopold Brothers: Todd Leopold handles the distilling and Scott Leopold focuses on the business. Diversity of product is a strength. Todd has masterminded everything from absinthe verte to blackberry liqueur, stemming from the brothers’ old microbrewery in Michigan, where the law dictates that you can only sell what you produce in-house. So Todd started making everything from gin to triple sec, before they shuttered the place and returned home to Colorado in 2008 to go into the distilling business full-time. The move has paid off with swift growth and Leopold Brothers is now on the cusp of breaking ground on a brand-new distillery on a four-acre. . .

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The Economist: An economic lesson from Argentina

By Tucker Hart Adams

I’m just home from a month of travel in South America – Argentina, Uruguay (only briefly), Chile and Brazil. The trip was very interesting from a traveler’s point of view, but it was absolutely fascinating for an economist. Today, all four countries are listed as Upper Middle Income by the World Bank, although the differences are significant. Per capita output (GDP) adjusted for the purchasing power of the local currency ranges from $12,000 in Brazil to $18,200 in Chile. By comparison, per capita GDP is $49,800 in the U.S. and $102,800 in Qatar, the world’s richest country. In the 1500s, the Spanish established colonies in Argentina and Chile, while the Portuguese established a colony in Brazil. Argentina declared independence in 1816, Chile in 1818 and Brazil in 1822. Here is where history gets really interesting for an economist. Agriculture in Argentina. . .

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Rundles wrap up: Crazy

By Jeff Rundles

I think I might be crazy. Or insane. Off my rocker. Looney tunes. Nuts. Barmy. Mental. Tetched. Psycho. Daft. Schizo. Unhinged. Cuckoo. Why? Because the zealots on either side of so many of the nation’s debates these days – pick one: gun control vs. the Second Amendment, billionaire tax cuts vs. entitlement spending cuts, defense of marriage vs. gay rights, “illegal” immigrants vs. undocumented workers, ad infinitum – are so convinced that they alone speak the truth, that they alone are the voice of sanity, that it must be that anyone who sees at least some merit in each position and would seek compromise must be the crazy one. I should seek political asylum, but I’m afraid that as a moderate that’s just. . .

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Sports biz: Bar code, please

By Stewart Schley

Like few other sports – quite possibly none – baseball’s appeal often transcends the personas and talents of the individuals playing. Especially on Opening Day. A team full of scrubs, no-names, has-beens, just-off-the-bus Triple A hopefuls and fatigued-looking, seen-it-all veterans with creaking knees and fading bat speed, has no obligation whatsoever to concede hope to a sleekly outfitted club of all-stars and aces. When the sun is shining and the ballpark is freshly scrubbed and you’ve arranged your workday in advance to feature back-to-back-to-back meetings outside the office during a time frame that coincidentally aligns with the pouring of an Opening Day beverage an hour before the first pitch and extends to approximately the moment when, barring extra innings, it could be assumed that the final out will have been recorded. This is the charm and. . .

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Made in Colorado 2013: Kitchen & bath

By Eric Peterson

Rosy Rings Denver www.rosyrings.com Candles Rosy Rings, now a successful small business with nearly 20 employees and an international presence in Japan and South Korea, began in a basement with an old crock pot, dented molds, some essential oils and beeswax. Founder Shannon Cumberland’s hobby became a full-fledged occupation when she lost her day job in 1995. Today Rosy Rings operates out of a 15,000-square-foot facility in Denver and Cumberland buys her wax by the ton. But some things never change. “We still hand-produce all of our candles and we make them the same way we did 16 years ago,” says Cumberland.   It’s this unwavering integrity that allows Rosy Rings to compete in such a crowded industry. A single. . .

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Executive edge: Chris Lewter

Verizon Wireless regional president draws on Detroit experience

By Lynn Bronikowski

Within weeks of moving to Colorado as president of the Mountain Region for Verizon Wireless, Chris Lewter faced his first crisis – devastating fires that engulfed 18,000 acres of Colorado Springs. “Our facilities and some of our network towers were in jeopardy,” recalls Lewter, who watched an 18-wheeler come up from Texas decked out with Verizon equipment and a mobile cell site. “The most rewarding thing was to see a team pull together. We had employees who lost everything yet they kept working throughout the fire. It was all about making a difference in people’s lives, and that is really powerful.” Lewter, 40, who has worked for Verizon for 14 years, was used to challenge, having worked in Detroit for five. . .

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Made in Colorado 2013: Miscellaneous sports

By Eric Peterson

Wiggy’s Grand Junction www.wiggys.com Sleeping bags Jerry Wigutow started making sleeping bags in 1986. Today, his 35-person company is the only domestic manufacturer of sleeping bags in existence. His competitors “all left the country,” says Wigutow. “Nothing’s changed. They still don’t make any money on their bags because they aren’t any good.” Wiggy’s sleeping bags, on the other hand, are very good, thanks to Wigutow’s trade-secret Lamilite insulation, which he spins from continuous filament fiber on a custom machine, just like he did a quarter-century ago. “Heat retention in my bags is superior to anyone,” he says. “And if moisture gets in, it doesn’t make any difference.” For this reason, you’ll find Wiggy’s sleeping bags in everything from Air Force jets to Coast. . .

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Made in Colorado 2013: Aerospace

By Eric Peterson

Ball Aerospace Broomfield www.ballaerospace.com Spacecraft and aerospace components With 90,000 square feet of brand-new manufacturing space, Broomfield-based spacecraft and component maker Ball Aerospace is hoping 2013 will be a pivotal year for the 57-year-old company. Ball, which counts 2,800 employees nationwide, recently put the finishing touches on $75 million expansions of its Boulder and Westminster facilities, doubling the company’s spacecraft production capacity. And Ball is already using its updated workspace to construct a number of high-profile spacecraft. Company spokeswoman Roz Brown says Ball is in the midst of constructing a remote-sensing satellite for DigitalGlobe that will provide the images for Google. . .

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Training in transition

Despite offshoring, manufacturing is up – and so are job prospects

By Nora Caley

Manufacturing did not disappear; it just changed. There has been much offshoring over the years, but companies are still making things in Colorado. According to the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment (CDLE), in December 2012 there were 5,311 manufacturing establishments employing 133,400 people in the state. That’s an increase of 4,000 workers compared to December 2011. Wade Troxell, mechanical engineering professor and associate dean for research and economic development in the College of Engineering at Colorado State University, says manufacturing has become so important that President Barack Obama mentioned it in his State of the Union address in February. “There is a lot of innovation in creating new ways. . .

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